Parents of students attending a Missouri high school expressed concern after an armed school resource officer showed up unannounced at a woman’s home on Monday to confront her teenage daughter about a failing grade in a ceramics class.
The officer knocked on the door of Porscha Outen’s north St. Louis County home to speak with her daughter, a sophomore of Ritenour High School, about a failing grade in the virtual class.
She told KDSK news that the officer arrived at her home at around 8:30 a.m. on Jan. 4 without warning, and questioned her daughter about work she was supposed to turn in for class.
“I couldn’t keep my eyes off his firearm,” she said. The officer is from the St. Ann Police Department and a is a member of the “wellness team.” The team works in pairs with counselors and social workers to check on students flagged for chronic absenteeism, academic issues or behavioral problems.
The officer was accompanied by a guidance counselor who did not speak during the visit. Outen didn’t learn the woman was a guidance counselor until after the visit
Outen said her daughter answered the officer, until she intervened. “I was like, ‘this conversation is over,'” she said.
Dr. Chris Kilbride, the superintendent of schools for the Ritenour School District, said there have been 1,500 similar house calls since August.
“The presence of an officer is triggering,” Kilbride said. “We’ve gotten that feedback now, so now the responsibility is on us in that specific situation to act differently.”
He said the house calls are about positivity, offering resources, and highlighting where there may be need for improvement. Kilbride also noted there has been a decline in student performance in over the past year.
Many school districts across the country have seen the number of students failing classes double or triple amid the pandemic, especially at schools with online classes.
Outen said she doesn’t want her daughter to associate her education with a police officer. “I don’t want my child to associate receiving a grade that needs to be improved with a gun,” she added.
Another parent, Christine Troupe said a pair came to visit her home on Tuesday. She called the visit a “scare tactic.”
“The implication of the police showing up to your house is like you’ve done something wrong and it’s like even if you’ve not done anything it’s that feeling of something is criminal is happening here,” said Troupe
Kilbride said officers will no longer send officers on academic-related house calls, and that a parent advisory committee will be formed to give parents and students an opportunity to refine the plan.
Outen is working with the St. Louis NAACP, where she works in public relations, to end the officer-involved house calls.
“It appears in the Black community, there’s an extra need to show intimidation or act as if you fear being in our presence,” said John Bowman, president of the NAACP chapter. “I am unwilling to accept the intimidation and over-policing of a child on a minor issue such as a grade.”